Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Reflections on a Week Off

Here's a retrospective post from last week. Be warned! No politics and a bit of Islamic spirituality, so if this isn't your kinda thing, look away:

I blog reluctantly today. I look out the window and see a calm blue ocean, above which the sun slowly rouses from its night time respite. I inspire that crisp salty air, and I try to imbibe that spirit of inspiration that will carry me through a regrettably unenthusiastic post.

It truly is a beautiful day today. What makes it even more beautiful is that there are no distractions to prevent me from reflecting on it. To look at the morning sky in all its contrasting hues and feel the innate wonder of its simple perfection is awe-inspiring. I honestly cannot help but feel intimidated by the majesty of the nature out here. It’s like Nature softly whispering in my ear: you may sometimes feel big, but you are nothing more than a cog in the magnificent clock of life.  I think these instances of unpretentious humility are of the many that drive me to be a committed theist. To feel that the most raw of emotions are attached to vulnerability and not to self-glorification reminds me of the nature the Creator has instilled in me. It is one of the truest, most natural of His paths to see that we are in fact meek beings very much dependent on the environment that we live in.

I am no religious scholar, nor am I a preacher or theological authority. In fact, I view my faith as a deeply personal issue that I keep in treasured confidence with Him. After all, who can ever know the contents of another’s heart? I do not presume to impose my beliefs on other people. I do, however, believe that wisdom is a universal thing; thus when it is felt, it is prudent to share it. Therefore, in the spirit of the reflective nature of my week off work, I thought I would share with you some thoughts that were expressed on a holy night at a religious institution recently. They relate to two instances within Prophetic tradition that have to do with one’s self and one’s relationship with the outside. Whether you believe in the authenticity of religion or not, one cannot deny that it comprises perhaps the most comprehensive compendia of ancient wisdom currently available today. It thus makes sense to extract what we can from it, with the purpose of understanding ourselves better.

The first relation describes the Prophet (s) sitting on his own under a tree after an unsuccessful mission of delivering the Message of God to the people of a certain city. I may be a bit hazy on details, forgive me if I paraphrase a bit. The Prophet (s) had been mocked and abused out of the city, and now sat before God in the aftermath of his failure. He expressed his uncertainty that he was the right person to deliver the Message, that he felt so small in the face of this huge task. He begged for forgiveness for his own weakness in failing to achieve the end for which he was sent. Two of many important lessons should be highlighted from this audible expression of the Prophet’s (s) apprehension (that was overheard by an approaching man). Firstly, he doubted his own worthiness and ability to carry the Message. This reveals the level of humility and humanity that he personified: he was a man, and he knew it. He needed reassurance and reinforcement, like all people do, and he sought it from God. His humility belied the veneration and extreme esteem in which his followers held him; they loved him so much they were happy to lay down everything they had for him. The second lesson of this story, and perhaps the more pertinent, was that he looked to himself first as the source of inadequacy. How easy it is to place blame on circumstance or other people. How difficult it is to accept that we are too often the source of our own misgivings. Of course I am guilty of this myself, and vanity and ego are the root causes of refusing to accept guilt, incompetence or fault. Ironic then that this ego and this vanity becomes the root cause of my unhappiness, since true happiness is based on progression through acceptance.

The second relation describes the manner in which the Prophet (s) handled the power that was granted to him according to Islamic tradition. After the incident at Taif, in which its residents rejected and ridiculed him, the angels asked him if he wished to have city buried under a crumbling mountain. His response was, quite simply, magnanimous. He refused to allow a catastrophe to be cast upon the population of Taif, citing that they were ignorant of his position and his Message, and then he expressed hope that from that city fair-minded wisdom would eventually arise. He forgave, made excuses for and then prayed for the people that physically and ruthlessly hurt him, humiliated him and expelled him.  What is particularly astounding to me in this relation is the unbridled optimism and faith displayed in the goodness of humanity. People can do the worst of things, and those things may have a direct effect on me, but this does not make them horrible people. Sometimes, the only thing that is required to dig through all the negativity is time and knowledge. To make excuses for people is to “walk a mile in their shoes”, and we all know that this is something that all major systems of both belief and disbelief urge us to do. Condemnation is the antithesis of understanding and tolerance, and it is obvious which the correct attitude to adopt is.

So yes, my blog post this week was unusually spiritual and reflective, but it was my week off. Next post is back to politics. Egypt just had their election, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammad Mursi is the new president. Does that mean the Coptic Christian minority is under threat? Also, the ANC policy conference is currently being held at Gallagher Estate in Midrand. I’ll share some highlights and how some of the decisions may affect you.

Till next time then.

1 comment:

  1. Im not particularly religious but great insightful post. Keep it up! S